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Biggest US airlines have combined 1Q loss over $1B

Joshua Freed ad David Koenig, AP via Bellingham Herald
With fresh red ink at Delta and US Airways, the five biggest U.S. airlines showed a combined loss of more than $1 billion for the first quarter. Soaring jet fuel prices are the big culprit.

The total loss was only about $100 million larger than a year ago, even though jet fuel spending jumped by 28 percent, nearly $1.9 billion. Airlines were able to narrow the difference in fuel spending with a 12 percent increase in revenue.

They have raised fares seven times since the start of the year and would like to keep doing that to offset higher fuel costs.
(26 April 2011)

The wooden bike – an engineering marvel, a recipe for saddle sore

Kirsty Ennew, Bike Blog, Guardian
We’ve featured a bamboo bike on this blog before, with thick sections of the segmented grass used for the tubes, joined with resin and finished with traditional components.

But the SplinterBike is something far more exotic – every single part is wooden; wheels, frame, gears. Even, painfully, the saddle.

Not a single bolt or screw has been used, nothing metal, plastic or rubber.

At 31kg, and with one fixed gear and no brakes, it’s unlikely to win awards for practicality, but as an engineering exercise it’s a marvel.

It began as a £1 bet last year between joiner Michael Thompson and friend James Tully as they watched the Tour of Britain zoom past Michael’s front garden.

Michael had always claimed he could make anything from wood, and James called his bluff in a big way.
(27 April 2011)

Stop signs don’t work for bicycling

Mia Birk, Oregon City
… Sure, cyclists don’t stop at this or practically all stop-controlled intersections. Most motorists don’t come to a complete stop either, as the officer acknowledged, though crash statistics give the location a clean bill of health. This intersection, with its wide expanse of asphalt and circular nature, seems tailor-made for the rolling river of whooshing tires and strong legs flowing to and from downtown.

From the officer’s perspective, the law is the law. He’s just doing his job.

… To the officer, I can explain until I’m blue in the face that it is desirable, normal, and natural to keep up momentum when bicycling. Not surrounded by 2,000 pounds of steel, we can see all around us (no blind spots!). We can hear and be acutely aware of traffic, and we can stop on a dime. If we misjudge the situation or make a poor behavior choice, the damage is likely to be to us. No way does this behavior merit a $242 fine.

You see, stop signs are placed at intersections to keep two-ton vehicles from crashing into each other. One- to two-hundred-pound riders on bicycles do not need to come to a complete stop to avoid serious injury.

While stop signs are an efficient and effective way to delineate right of way for motorists, cyclists need something different.

A potential solution: at Ladd Circle and many other intersections, we can add yield signs and pavement markings to govern cyclist behavior. This is the approach of the bicycle-friendly cities of Europe. However, it’s easier said than done, for numerous technical, financial and political reasons.

…Why, [Oregon lawmakers say] say, should cyclists get to yield if motorists are obligated to stop (even if they actually don’t)?

Why? Because the making of a Portland where bicycling is a pillar of our transportation system is not just about building a bikeway network and encouraging people to use it. It’s also about evolution of our behavior and attitudes, traffic-control devices, laws, and enforcement practices. In much of inner Southeast and Northeast Portland, this evolution is already occurring, as motorists frequently gesture cyclists through stop signs even when the cyclist is obliged to stop. I experience this much-appreciated kindness every day, and always respond with a smile and wave. Given that close to 30 percent of inner-eastside residents ride a bike some of the time, I presume that these motorists must also be cyclists and understand that when you’re on a bike, momentum is your friend.
(21 April 2011)

Riled about rail: Why all the anger over high speed trains?

Steven Harrod, CNN

CNN Editor’s note: Steven Harrod, Ph.D., is an assistant professor of operations management at the University of Dayton and specializes in the topic of railway operations management. He has traveled more than 25,000 miles, coast to coast, on Amtrak, and throughout the rail networks of the United Kingdom, Western Europe and Eastern Europe.

“Stop the Train” was, literally, a rallying cry for post-Tea Party Republicans this past November.

Newly elected GOP governors in Wisconsin, Ohio and Florida have canceled already-funded high speed rail projects.

Much of the opposition to rail projects appears to stem not from economic arguments, but from fundamental cultural values on what “American” transportation should be.

A perusal of online commentaries about passenger rail stories reveals a curious linkage by writers between passenger rail and “European socialism.”

… Story Highlights

– Critics emotionally identify rail as enabler of feared cultural values, says author
– Professor: Emotional response to rail creates obstacles to economic growth
– Many opponents mistakenly see U.S. as rural; it is increasingly urban, says expert
– U.S. risks trailing other nations in mobility and quality of life, he says
(21 April 2011)
Suggested by EB contributor Hans Noeldner. -BA