- a collection of notes and reflections on urban living from the perspective of a family of five in Tokyo. My epiphany was many years ago, but being hit by a motorbike and seeing my life flash before my eyes caused a sudden change that slowly made me reflect on whether American style auto-centric urban transportation of the Roosevelt era really is a capital G "Good Idea" for civilized modern cities in the 21st Century. This blog explores the good and the bad in urban planning and design, here and elsewhere. The goal is simple - not "death to all cars," just more walkable communities, quiet tree-lined streets, good public transport, traffic calming, Velib style bicycle sharing and a bit of common sense. The bolg is mostly theraputic, so I don't go wanting to throttle every dangerous driver I come across, but partly also out of a real desire to see positive change. This blog explores how it can be done, the people who do it, and how, in many small ways, this very old idea may at last have found its zeitgeist. Comments and suggestions welcome.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Which should come first, cycling popularity or better planning?

Very interesting study here. I never knew that bicycle use in Japan doubled from 1975-1977. According to this article it appears to have been triggered by a change in public policy in favour of bicycle use. Pity they didn't think of a system like the Paris Velib project, which would have eliminated some of the need for spwrawling parking facilities.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Taken for a Ride

Fairly well known documentary about efforts to derail mass transit in the US. Just thought I would put it up here in case anyone has not seen it. Really wish a similar thing would be done about Japan's own sordid history of motorway construction - right up to the reduction of highway tolls today as "economic stimulus."

Friday, August 07, 2009

What sound should electric cars have ?

As noted in a recent Reuters blog article Gassing About Electric Cars, motor engineers these days appear to be faced with a peculiar problem - what sound to give electric cars?

Automotive industry participants obviously do not buy into the idea that we should have fewer cars on the road. More is better from their perspective. Anything else and even Government Motors will not be saved. Hell, the auto industry hasn't even liked the idea of moving to electric vehicles. However the industry has recently been forced to concede that at a bare minimum, a shift of the current fleet to electric vehicles will be necessary if we are to avoid a future not worth considering.

Now, as I have noted in previous posts, for various reasons I think the switch to EVs is just one very small part of the change that is necessary. In fact it may even lead to more difficulties down the road as the world gears up nuclear power stations to provide all the electricity necessary.

One thing I do find amusing is that electric vehicle designers are confounded by the noise of electric vehicles - or lack thereof. Why should it be a problem for a vehicle to be quiet? Well, not so surprisingly, automobiles are extremely dangerous. Those of us lucky to have good hearing have relied on it to save our lives. It is no surprise to know that deaths by automobile are highest among the elderly. The elderly cannot hear vehicles coming. Pretty soon we will all be faced with this issue. So what to do? Give cars artificial noise. Well this will bring a whole new dimension to the fight over noise pollution in cities. Not only are drivers making a lot of noise - it will be entirely preventable.

Meanwhile the USA has poured another billion dollars down the drain with their "Cash for Clunkers" program, while urban renewal projects that promote walkable cities are being knocked back due to lack of funding.

Thursday, August 06, 2009

When Can Deflation be a Good Thing?

The Real Tragedy

- Private Cars in China Up 28% in 2008
The number of privately owned cars in China rose by 28% in 2008, making the
total number of civilians owning private cars 19.47 million, according to the
National Bureau of Statistics of China (probably an unreliable source).

Even if the figures are overstated, this is the real tragedy. China, Russia, Brazil, India. If they all start driving like "Westerners" do, we are screwed.