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Bicyles and transport - Oct 7

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Riding Bikes with the Dutch - Movie Trailer 5

Michael Bauch, EverydayBike

A young American family travels halfway around the world looking for bicycle bliss and ends up rediscovering their own home.
After a home exchange in Amsterdam with my wife and young son, our whole outlook on cycling changed. Instead of being satisfied with being stuck in grid lock in Southern California, we began to see how the simple act of riding a bike can change the whole outlook of a city. When we returned home to Long Beach, CA we found that our hometown was striving to become the most "Bicycle Friendly City in America".

Riding Bikes with the Dutch - Movie Trailer 5 from Michael Bauch on Vimeo.

From the filmmaker's website
The first time I stepped off the train in Amsterdam I was literally speechless. As soon as I set foot on the ground I was almost run over by a mob of bikes. I turned to look up and to my amazement there was a 3 level structure dedicated to just parking bicycles. Everyone from three years old to 93 seemed to be tooling around the city on two wheels. This was too much to take in with just my own eyes. I needed to share this with everyone I could and this is why I made my film: Riding Bikes with the Dutch.
The Dutch Get it

Bikes aren't just for Lance Armstrong. You don't have to have the latest carbon fiber frame and wear a spandex body suit to ride a bike...what a revelation.

Bicycling is a lifestyle - not just a race, a hobby, or the latest fashion craze.

Bikes aren't just for kids. Adults can play too!

Cars treat bikes with respect. Cyclists are treated like real modes of transportation, not second class citizens.

Cities should be designed for people - not cars.

Bicycling infrastructure is a key part of the planning process for new construction, not an after thought.

(Accessed 7 October 2010)
Interview with the filmmaker. -BA


Dude, Where's Your Car?

Tom Vanderbilt, Slate
How not having a car became Hollywood shorthand for loser.
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... Greenberg is just the most recent film in which a character's non-automobility—whether for lack of a car or for lack of the ability to drive—is used for comic effect, whether as a metaphor for a deeper personality flaw or as a token of marginality and/or plain creepiness. As the humorist Art Buchwald once observed, "People are broad-minded. They'll accept the fact that a person can be an alcoholic, a dope fiend, a wife beater and even a newspaperman, but if a man doesn't drive, there's something wrong with him."
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This attitude seems to flourish in Hollywood. I put a call out for examples on my blog, and readers found scads of them.

... perhaps it's the wider society that has trouble conceiving of life outside the omnipresent sphere of what sociologist John Urry calls "automobility," one tenet of which is "the dominant culture that organizes and legitimates socialities across different genders, classes, ages and so on; that sustains major discourses of what constitutes the good life and what is necessary for an appropriate citizenship of mobility; and that provides potent literary and artistic images and symbols."

And so anything outside this dominant culture is treated as, well, a little weird. Hollywood's representation of cyclists, for example, as blogger Bike Snob puts it, has "pretty much been nerds on 10 speeds."

... However, as noncar modes of transportation begin to penetrate even Los Angeles, Hollywood is beginning to allow some exceptions. The comedy 500 Days of Summer features two relatable, attractive young professionals who find various ways to get around Los Angeles, even taking a train—yes, it exists!—to attend a wedding in San Diego. It all seems very normal. (The fact that the film was originally intended to be set in San Francisco may explain some of this.) And with films like The 40-Year Old Virgin, perhaps the fact that cycling is shown as a real mode choice at all—even if with some attendant baggage—represents progress of sorts.
(30 July 2010)
Dear filmmmakers, Here's an idea for you. Show drivers as seen through the eyes of bicyclists. Obese, snarling, and/or clueless. Yeah, it's an unfair stereotype, but all culture wars are unfair. -BA

 


Can pop culture push sustainable mobility?

Erik Weber, Greater Greater Washington
Popular culture shapes our lives in countless ways, both directly and subconsciously. Since Leave It to Beaver, American popular culture has been deeply rooted in car-centered suburbia. That paradigm may be shifting.

There was a time when being carless was tantamount to wearing head gear: totally uncool. Truth be told, that time is still now in many places, but there's a true shift beginning to take hold.

As young families, professionals and students eschew the surburban lifestyles many of them grew up in for transit-oriented city dwelling, popular culture seems to be catching on. And where pop culture goes, we can hope, so will the masses.

... The fashion world may be catching on as well. Clothing mega-producer Gap recently introduced a new line of women's shoe called the City Flat. This "Walkable" shoe is designed for "the girl on-the-go." It doesn't take a market analyst to figure out these shoes aren't aimed at the 1980s-style career woman who drives from her Upper West Side condo to the parking garage in her Downtown Manhattan office building.

... The latest chink in the mainstream, car-centered, American lifestyle came just last week. The New York Times published a profile of Mad Men actor Vincent Kartheiser, who lives without a car in auto-dominated Los Angeles. The article chronicles Kartheiser's commutes to the Mad Men set, describing vibrant scenes on LA's buses and subway.

"Instead of driving and being stressed out about traffic," Kartheiser says, "you can work your scene, you can do your exercises or whatever on the bus." While many transit advocates have been making this point for years, it helps when an actor on America's best TV drama says it in one of the world's most prestigious and widely circulated newspapers.
(7 October 2010)

 


Why Building a Bike-Safe City Is Key to a Clean Energy Future

Sarah Laskow, The Media Consortium
Congress couldn’t get it together to vote even on the smallest of possible energy bills—the renewable energy standard—before the October recess. That doesn’t change the reality that our energy dependent society needs to find alternatives quickly. Changing up our approach to transportation, one of the biggest sources of energy consumption, is a good place to start.

If more Americans used bicycles as a primary mode of transportation, the country would be closer to getting its energy use under control. So how can we make biking safer, easier, more mainstream? Infrastructure, safety, and education are key. It also helps to replicate model behaviors.

“Last spring, public officials from Madison, Wisconsin, returned home from a tour of the Netherlands, and within three weeks were implementing what they learned there about promoting bicycling on the streets of their own city,” reports Jay Walljasper for Yes! Magazine.

Cities like Portland, Madison, and San Francisco are trying to make cycling a way of life. But for the best answers, American leaders must look abroad, to cities like Copenhagen in Denmark, Utrecht and The Hague in the Netherlands, and Malmo in Sweden.

Safe riding

Improving safety is the first order of business to encouraging cycling, and that means investing in infrastructure specifically for bike use. As Change.org’s Jess Leber writes, “Every time there is a senseless death, there are going to be a group of residents who decide biking is too risky for their tastes.”
(4 October 2010)

 


Transit Economics

Paul Krugman, New York Times
The usual suspects on the comment board are, inevitably, arguing that rail transit should pay for itself. The obvious response is that road transit doesn’t; why should only public transit have to self-finance, when private vehicles generally drive on free roads built and maintained out of taxes?

But in a way that misses the larger point: urban transportation is an area in which we know that market prices bear very little relationship to true social costs. Even if you ignore environmental impacts and the national security implications of oil imports, the fact is that driving in an urban area, especially in rush hour, imposes huge congestion externalities on other people. And I mean huge: Felix Salmon had a nice piece last year putting the external cost you impose on other people by driving into lower Manhattan at $160 a day.
(7 October 2010)

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