Thursday, November 23, 2006

Yosemite Sam

I've come across some interesting documents recently, all of which are available for free online.

The Bicycle and Urban Sustainability by David Tomlinson, who in 2003 was at York University, and now seems to be with the City of Toronto Transportation Services.

Mr. Tomlinson does a good survey of why modern cities are not sustainable and how the bicycle can come to the rescue. At one point, talking about auto accidents he uses the sentence While the carnage inflicted by automobiles certainly changes the lives of countless crash victims and their families, the fear of traffic accidents can affect everyday travel choices. That's a fairly sad sentence on many levels, but for cyclists it is sad because Tomlinson goes on to explain that it is primarily the "fear" of being in an accident that keeps people from choosing to ride their bike to work.
He also mentions this idea, which I'd actually never heard before:
Short automobile trips generate the most pollution, per kilometre, since a vehicle’s motor is not able reach optimal operating temperature. These are also the trips that are most amenable to bicycling, and so the bicycle’s potential to reduce air pollution is higher than one might think.

The Earth Policy Institute has a text titled Plan B 2.0: Rescuing a Planet Under Stress and a Civilization in Trouble. They've made it available as a .pdf on their website.

I so far haven't reached the chapters where "solutions" are presented. Right now I'm just reading horror story after horror story about how we're all doomed.
It's nothing new I guess - the peak oil issue, the looming water crisis (which will probably start a war in the middle east), the loss of farmland to suburban sprawl, etc. etc. It's scary stuff, so eventually you can't take anymore and you close the book and you open one of your magazines....

and you read in Fareed Zakaria's Newsweek column that China and India are already constructing 650 coal-fired power plants, whose combined CO2 emissions will be five times the total savings envisioned by the Kyoto accords.

Sufferin' Succotash.

FINALLY, Statistics Canada has a good publication titled Human Activity and the Environment: Annual Statistics 2006. Section 1.2 documents Transportation's Environmental Impacts, and there is basically a chart which says "Cars kill us this way, this way, and this way" (page 18, and I'm only exaggerating a little bit).


Karen Stilwell said...

I have a hard time believing that it is *primarily* the fear of being in a traffic accident that prevents people from biking to work! It might be the primary *excuse* not to ride a bike to work (although, I'd doubt its primacy even as an excuse), but the primary reason would be laziness. =)

Tuco said...

Oh, I don't know Karen. I remember when I was in undergrad at U of T - fresh to the city - and I saw people biking around and thought they were out of their minds trying to bike in Toronto.

In a way it's kind of like diving into freezing water - you just have to dive in and get started and you realize it's not so scary.

Anonymous said...

It takes a certain amount of guts to try to negotiate traffic to make lane changes etc.

I cycle the Trans-Canada Highway, every year it takes a bit of settling in to get used to the transport trucks speeding past you, while you cycle, what in some cases is, only 6" of paved shoulder.

We need a great recognition of cyclists and more focus on the Trans-Canada Trail.

Andrew said...

I ride on some very busy arterials in York Region, as there are few or no alternatives in some cases. I tend to stop bike commuting in the cooler months. This isn't because of the temperature or laziness. I travel east in the morning, right into the rising sun which makes me afraid of being invisible to motorists. I also feel extremely vulnerable in the evenings in the dark conditions, even with lights, reflectors and reflective clothing.

These problems push me over the edge from a commute that feels acceptable from March-November, to one that feels much more risky December-February. During the winter I trade my 25 minute bike ride for a 1 hour combination bus ride and walk.

The worst part is that the white knuckle sections of my ~9km commute are only about 3km. But it's enough to make me think about alternatives when the light gets dim.